FT business books — April edition


“From Zero to IPO: Over $1 Trillion in Actionable Advice from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” by Frederic Kerrest

In 2011, as co-founder and COO of a failing and threatened company, Frederic Kerrest received advice from a member of his board of directors who had been through it all before. By acting on it, Kerrest and the Okta company avoided a disaster. Six years later, the company was valued at $40 billion.

Having learned first-hand how this kind of insider know-how can mean the difference between success and failure, Kerrest’s mission in Zero at IPO is to share these secrets with budding entrepreneurs. This amounts to giving precisions: “When you’re in the trenches, you don’t want generalities. You must know what to do right nowhe wrote, promising insights into 20 years of notes he’s taken, based on his experience with Okta and advice from business leaders and investors he’s met over the years. The goal is to “demystify the world of start-ups,” with practical advice that Kerrest says isn’t necessarily offered in business school.

As Kerrest acknowledges, only a small subset of companies make it to the stock market, but the lessons apply to all founders, whether they plan to go public or stay private, he says. Chapters on topics such as fundraising, sales, and leadership are listed in the order an entrepreneur might follow when building a business.

Kerrest discusses the decision to take Okta public and explains why the IPO was just the start of setting longer-term goals for the company. The advice ranges from Kerrest’s views on advisory boards — “not worth the time and money” — to tips for coaching your team to get to the point quickly in emails. He draws on his own early failures to illustrate various points throughout the book, such as Okta’s initial strategy of trying to copy Salesforce and ending up targeting the wrong customers.

Three basic tips are distilled near the beginning of the book: on the value of time, focusing only on your top priority at any given time, and remembering that success depends on whether or not you make sales. For those who make it to the end and still want to try entrepreneurship, it will be “one of the hardest paths you’ve ever walked,” promises Kerrest, “but also one of the most rewarding.”

‘Love + work: how to find what you love, love what you do and do it for the rest of your life’, by Marcus Buckingham

Love and work are two basic human needs, but are they related? Marcus Buckingham, head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute in the US, thinks so and has put together a guide to encourage people to find jobs they can flourish because it plays on the things they love – or in Buckingham’s vocabulary, their “red threads”.

Buckingham, who was born and raised in the UK before emigrating to the US as a fresh graduate to pursue a career in research, has little time for the education systems and guidance counselors pushing us to continue what we are good at or to accept this work. will ultimately be a chore. Instead, he urges readers to seek out jobs and careers that involve the tasks you enjoy doing — even if it may seem unglamorous to others, like cleaning the halls of Walt Disney World.

The book encourages readers to find out what specific tasks they really enjoy doing rather than a dream job or career – and why you shouldn’t be looking for roles only because they offer prestige or higher salaries. Some of his recommendations seem contradictory – don’t trust the opinions of others, but listen to those who want to empower you to do the things you love. And Buckingham shares a lot about his personal career path, made possible by identifying what he loved about data analysis, as well as a stutter that held him back through childhood and divorce. Plus, there’s a lot of specific advice: just start something rather than constantly wondering if it’s right; what you do for work always trumps who you do it and why you do it.

Love+Work towards the end strays into a manifesto to fix the education system and a guide to better parenting, but at its heart it’s about finding the career, or series of careers, that’s best for you as you pursue this what you like to do. Who doesn’t want to do that?

“Going Remote: How the Flexible Work Economy Can Improve Our Lives and Cities,” by Matthew E Kahn

How will the great work-from-home experiment that many of us have undertaken during the pandemic shutdowns work in the long term?

Urban economist Matthew E Kahn attempts to explore this from an American perspective in Go remoteemphasizing that we can take greater advantage of the opportunities that remote working presents if we can also anticipate its challenges as they arise.

He points to four specific social challenges that existed before the pandemic: we were spending too much time commuting; rents were too high in America’s most productive cities; local economies were stagnant in many rural areas and in post-industrial cities; and many women and minorities have not had the same economic success and access to opportunity as white men.

In three parts — “Workers,” “Businesses,” and “Places” — the author explores the short- and medium-term gains for employees that will help overcome these challenges, how businesses will adapt to working from home, and how the rise of remote work may affect ‘superstar’ cities, such as New York.

The most obvious gain for workers is less commuting, but that doesn’t mean everyone will go to the countryside and city life is diminished – young people in particular will appreciate the time spent in face to face and the effervescence of the city. Meanwhile, companies may well be shrinking office space, but they face challenges around where they should now set up shop and how to ensure dispersed employees feel productive and engaged.

Subsequently, he says, this fuels what happens in New York and San Francisco as post-industrial cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland and Detroit potentially begin to compete for workers as places to live. more affordable.

“By influencing the geography of where successful people in the United States live, the rise of the WFH creates new opportunities for economic growth in regions that have lagged behind for decades,” Kahn writes.

“Productive Tensions: How Every Leader Can Tackle Innovation’s Toughest Tradeoffs”, by Christopher B Bingham and Rory M McDonald

The path to becoming a better leader has always been long and bumpy. Dynamic environments require constant adaptation, but few leaders know how to manage the pressures created by destabilizing forces. In their new book, Bingham and McDonald, who are both business school professors, explore techniques to make everyday stresses more productive for leaders seeking new opportunities for growth.

The guide addresses eight critical tensions that innovators must master and provides a portfolio of strategies extracted and generalized from the lived experience of effective leaders in a range of industries and types of companies, such as P&G, the goods group of consumption, Instagram, the United States. military and Slack, the communication platform.

Based on research and interviews, the authors explain that the tensions inherent in innovation are continuous instabilities that arise from competing goals: efficiency or flexibility? Consistency or change? Product or goal? The authors offer practical solutions to effectively manage each tension and better navigate the changing nature of businesses characterized by novelty and uncertainty.

An interesting chapter, “Refer to or Ignore the Data?”, looks at how to use data in decision-making, pros and cons, and an in-depth example from Netflix. In summary, relying on deep data analytics will help propel progressive originality, but will also tend to discourage breakthrough innovation.

The model proposed in the book simplifies the challenges associated with creating new products and services. The main message is to work smarter, anticipating the tensions that will arise and confronting them head-on, thus reducing the risk of having to stop innovation efforts and better positioning the organization to overcome complexity.


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